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Metropolis (メトロポリス Metoroporisu?) is a 2001 anime film and loosely based on the 1949 Metropolis manga created by the late Osamu Tezuka, itself a loose adaptation of the famous silent German film of the same name. The film had an all star production team including renowned anime director Rintaro, Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo as script writer, and animation by Madhouse Studios with conceptual support from Tezuka Productions.[1] The film was given a PG-13 rating by the MPAA for "violence and images of destruction" and TV-14-LV rating when it aired on Adult Swim.

Plot synopsis

Metropolis is a futuristic city-state where humans and robots coexist uneasily. Robots are heavily discriminated against, and segregated into the city's lowest level. Much of the city's human population is unemployed and impoverished; many blame the robots for taking their jobs. Duke Red, the de facto ruler of Metropolis, has overseen the construction of a massive skyscraper called the Ziggurat, which he claims will allow mankind to further extend its power across the planet. A wayward robot disrupts the Ziggurat's opening ceremony, only to be shot down by Rock, Duke Red's adoptive son and the head of the Marduk Party, an anti-robot vigilante group.

Private detective Shunsaku Ban and his nephew, Kenichi, travel to Metropolis from Japan with an arrest warrant for Dr. Laughton, a mad scientist wanted for illegally trafficking in human organs. Unbeknown to Shunsaku, Laughton has been secretly hired by Duke Red to construct a highly advanced robot modeled and named after Red's deceased daughter, Tima. Red intends for Tima to sit on the 'throne' within the Ziggurat and 'complete it', functioning as the central control unit for the structure's secret superweapon. Rock, however, learning of Tima's existence and not wanting a robot to overshadow his adoptive father, shoots Dr. Laughton and sets fire to his laboratory. Investigating the fire, Shunsaku enters the burning factory and discovers the dying Laughton, who gives him his notebook. Kenichi, meanwhile, encounters Tima, who was newly activated during the chaos. The two fall into the sewers and are separated from Shunsaku.

While Shunsaku searches for his nephew, Kenichi and Tima search for a way out of the bowels of the city. During this time, they grow close to each other as Kenichi teaches Tima the basics of language and grammar. Neither of them, however, are aware that she is a robot. The two—who are hunted relentlessly by Rock and his Marduk subordinates—encounter a group of unemployed human laborers who attempt to stage a revolution against Duke Red and the robots. The president of Metropolis attempts to use the revolution to justify arresting Duke Red for treason, so that he can take control of Metropolis. However, he is betrayed and assassinated by his top military commander, who is revealed to have sided with Duke Red. This allows Duke Red to impose martial law and suppress the revolution.

In the aftermath of the failed revolution, Kenichi reunites with Shunsaku, only to be cornered by Rock, who manages to wound both Shunsaku and Kenichi, and reveals to Tima that she is a robot. However, Rock is then confronted by Duke Red, who disowns him and strips him of his command of the Marduks for trying to kill Tima. Duke Red takes Tima away to the Ziggurat while Shunsaku and Kenichi are treated. Still determined to dispose of Tima and regain his father's affections, Rock kidnaps and deactivates Tima, who is now confused about her identity as either a human or a robot. Shunsaku is able to rescue her, and after following instructions left in Laughton's notebook, reactivates Tima. The two discover that Kenichi is being held within the Ziggurat, and are captured by Duke Red and the Marduks on their way to save him.

Brought to the pinnacle of the Ziggurat, Tima confronts Duke Red about whether or not she is a human or a robot; Duke Red tells her she is a "superhuman", destined to rule the world from her throne inside the tower. However, Rock enters the throne room disguised as a maid and shoots Tima, exposing her circuitry through the bullet wound. The sudden shock of realizing that she is a robot who has been misused causes Tima to go insane. Sitting on the Ziggurate 'throne', she begins to assimilate with the building, ordering a biological and nuclear attack on humanity as revenge. While the others flee, Kenichi remains in an attempt to free and reason with Tima. Revolting robots, drawn by Tima's command, assault the Ziggurat and attack Duke Red. Rock, deciding he'd rather his father die by his hands than those of a 'filthy robot', kills himself and Duke Red by triggering a chain reaction in the Ziggurat's superweapon, resulting in a massive explosion.

As the fortress starts to crumble and collapse around them, Kenichi succeeds in reaching Tima and separates her from the 'throne'. However, Tima, seemingly stripped of her memories and emotions, advances on Kenichi and attempts to kill him. In the struggle, Tima falls off the girders they are standing on. Kenichi attempts to pull Tima to safety using one of the cables still grafted to her skin. As the cable begins to fray, Tima begins to remember the time Kenichi first taught her grammar and asks Kenichi, "Who am I?" before she slips from his grip and falls to her death. The Ziggurat collapses, raining down debris and destroying a large part of Metropolis. By the next morning, Kenichi searches the ruins of Metropolis and encounters a group of robots that have salvaged some of Tima's parts in a possible attempt to rebuild her. While Shunsaku and many other human survivors are evacuated, Kenichi chooses to remain behind and rebuild the city. Kenichi wants to create a place were humans and robots can coexist peacefully so that there will never be another robot that has to suffer like Tima. Later, deep within the rubble of the city, a radio plays Tima's voice saying, "Who am I?"


The Metropolis anime featured many more characters from Osamu Tezuka's Star System than there were in the original manga. Most of the major characters from the manga reprise their roles for the movie, but a few major characters were left out, such as Dr. Yorkshire Bell. Rock was one character who wasn't in the original manga, but given a major part in the anime. Other minor roles were filled by various other characters from Osamu Tezuka's Star System, such as Ham Egg, President Boone, and Acetylene Lamp.

Main characters

Kenichi (Kei Kobayashi/Brianne Siddall) — A young boy who comes to Metropolis to aid his uncle in catching the internationally wanted criminal: Dr. Laughton. When he and his uncle find Laughton's laboratory, Kenichi helps save the mysterious Tima who emerges from the burning wreckage. Innocent and a bit naive, he tries to help Tima learn and understand the world around her, and herself as well. Kenichi is based on a character who featured in the early adventures of Tezuka's Astro Boy.[2]

Tima (Yuka Imoto/Rebecca Forstadt) — A robot modeled and named after Duke Red's deceased daughter. She is unique in that she appears human, a trait that no other robot shares. However, after she is activated, she has no memory or knowledge about who or what she is. With the help of Kenichi, she hopes to be able to find the answers to these questions. Unfortunately for her, the answers she finds are not very pleasant (the concept of a robot replacing a deceased human child had also been the original basis of Tezuka's Astro Boy). In the original manga, Tima was known as Michi, and had the ability to switch genders from a button in his/her throat.

Rock (Kōki Okada/Michael Reisz) — The antagonist of the story. An orphan, he was adopted by Duke Red to help fill the empty void of Duke Red's broken heart when his only child, Tima, died. However, with the notion that Tima can be brought back by building a robotic duplicate, Duke Red has since refused to acknowledge Rock as his son or return his love. Obsessed with regaining his father's affection and infuriated that Duke Red wants to give a robot the "throne" of the Ziggurat, Rock intends to kill Tima so that Duke Red will sit on the throne instead. However, his assassination attempts are foiled by Kenichi who protects Tima. Driven by his need to be accepted by Duke Red, Rock is willing to murder anyone that gets in his way. (While Rock did not feature in the original manga, Duke Red's comments about adopting him after "the last war" allude to another Tezuka manga from the same period, Nextworld, although this manga was actually released after Metropolis.)

Duke Red (Tarō Ishida/Jamieson K. Price) — The villain of the story and the plutocrat who founded the Marduk, an organization with which he secretly hopes to take over Metropolis. He builds the Ziggurat with claims that it will be a modern masterpiece for the city of Metropolis. However, the Ziggurat is actually a massive weapon with which he intends to use for world domination. As part of his plan, he hopes that Tima, a robotic duplicate of his deceased daughter, will control the Ziggurat and follow along with his master plan.

Shunsaku Ban (Kōsei Tomita/Tony Pope) — A Japanese private detective who has come to Metropolis with a warrant for Dr. Laughton. He is accompanied to Metropolis by his nephew, Kenichi, and is assigned a robot assistant by Superintendent Notarlin. While he appears clumsy and somewhat carefree, he is actually a brilliant detective and knows more about what is going on around him than he lets on. He spends a good portion of the movie searching for Kenichi when they get separated at Laughton's laboratory.

Minor characters

Makeru Butamo as Dr. Laughton (Junpei Takiguchi/Simon Prescott) — A mad scientist who is on the run from the law for his illegal experiments and the charge of human organ trafficking. A scientific genius, he is commissioned by Duke Red to build Tima in a secret lab within Metropolis. However, Dr. Laughton has other ideas and does not want to hand his greatest creation over to Duke Red. When Rock finds his lab, he shoots Laughton and attempts to destroy everything in the lab. Trapped in the burning wreckage, Dr. Laughton is found by Detective Shunsaku Ban right before he dies. Unlike in the original manga, the film version of Laughton is a cyborg, possibly as a reference to the Fritz Lang version's Rotwang & his mechanical arm.

Notaarin as Superintendent Notarlin (Shun Yashiro/William Knight) - Superintendent of the Metropolis police force, Superintendent Notarlin spends most of his time handling paperwork behind his desk in the police department. When Shunsaku Ban and Kenichi come to him with their request for the Metropolis Police's cooperation in apprehending Dr. Laughton, he unfortunately is only able to give them a robotic assistant. With the recent activity in Metropolis, he cannot spare any officers to Detective Ban's search. He simply gives them the paperwork needed to be assigned a trench-coat wearing robot to guide them around Metropolis. In the original manga, Notarlin has a much larger role, serving as a rival/comic foil to Duke Red, a role which he would later reprise in several other Tezuka manga featuring both characters including Nextworld.

Pero (Norio Wakamoto/Dave Mallow) - A robot assigned to Shunsaku Ban by Superintendent Notarlin to aid in his investigation. Amazed at the advanced technology of Metropolis, Shunsaku Ban often asks the robot questions to try and understand him a bit better. However, as robot protocol forbids him to have a human name, Shunsaku Ban addressed him as "Pero" instead of his more formal identification number 803-D-RP-DM-497-3-C. (He accepts this name as it is a name more associated for pets and not humans) He eventually makes a brave sacrifice for Shunsaku Ban later in the movie. Pero first appeared in the Astroboy manga story "The Hot Dog Corps" as a cyborg created from a dog of the same name that was once owned by Ban.

Ham and Egg as Himself (Masashi Ebara/Robert Axelrod) - Ham Egg is a police officer who guards the entrance to Zone 3, a section of Metropolis that is used for power production. Entrance to Zone 3 is restricted to robots and authorized personnel only due to its dangerous factory-like atmosphere. However, when Rock insists that he gain entrance to Zone 3, Ham Egg escorts him in personally. When he witnesses Rock's attempt to assassinate Tima, he tries to stop him, only to be shot and killed intentionally by Rock. In the manga, Ham Egg is one of Duke Red's henchmen and appears more frequently.

Atlas as Himself (Norihiro Inoue/Scott Weinger) - The leader of resentful unemployed laborers who reside in the slums of Zone 1. He and his rebel organization have a strong hatred for robots, blaming them for putting them out of work. Since Duke Red and his companies are primarily responsible for the construction and manufacturing of most, if not all, robots, Atlas hopes to lead his group to victory in displacing Duke Red and restoring jobs to the people and not the robots. Note that this Atlas has little to nothing to do with the Atlas of Astroboy, although his distinctive dreadlocks appear to have been inspired by the original manga Atlas' bizarre "headplugs".

Boon Marukubi as President Boone (Masaru Ikeda/Richard Plantagenet as "Steve McGowan")

Acetylene Lamp as Himself (Shigeru Chiba/Steven Jay Blum as "David Lucas")

Skunk Kusai as General Skunk (Toshio Furukawa/Dan Woren) - A military general who is in charge of the Metropolis army. While he appears to be loyal to President Boone, he is secretly working for Duke Red and the Marduk. When Duke Red begins the Coup to overthrow President Boone, Skunk shoots and kills Acetylene Lamp when he tries to stop Duke Red. After killing him, Skunk envisions a future of war and destruction, showing that his deepest desire is constant and everlasting war and death.

Mayor Lyon (Takaya Hashi/Peter Spellos)

Dr. Ponkotsu (Takeshi Aono/Doug Stone) - A scientist who works within the Ziggurat and monitors its functions and operations. He is responsible for the testing and working functions of the weapon that is the true Ziggurat, and reports directly to Duke Red. Dr. Ponkotsu also knows that the weapon can not be fully controlled unless Tima is able to take the "throne". He originally appeared in the same Astroboy story as Pero.

Emmy (Mami Koyama/Barbara Goodson) - A maid within Duke Red's home who is assigned the task of watching over Tima when Duke Red finds her and discovers that she is still alive. While disturbed at Tima's obsession of finding this "Kenichi", she tricks Tima into meeting a disbarred Rock after he bribes her to bring Tima to him. Like Notarlin, Emmy is also a major character from the manga who only has a brief cameo in the anime version.[3]

Differences between manga and anime

In Tezuka's original manga, the story revolves around a humanoid named Mitchi who has the ability to fly and swap sexes. Mitchi is pursued by Duke Red and his "Red Party" who intend to use Mitchi for destructive purposes. However, Shunsaku Ban and his nephew Kenichi find Mitchi after her creator, Dr. Charles Laughton, is killed and protect her as they search for her parents.

However, this cinematic adaptation of Tezuka's story integrates far more elements from the Fritz Lang film Metropolis. When making the original Metropolis manga, Tezuka said that the only real inspiration he got from Fritz Lang's Metropolis was a still image from the movie where a female robot was being born.[4] In addition to adopting set designs of the original film, this version has more emphasis on a strong and pervasive theme of class struggle in a dystopian, plutocratic society and expands it to examine the relationship of robots with their human masters. (This relationship was explored by Tezuka in great detail with his popular series Astro Boy.) The anime adaptation also removes many of the more fanciful elements out of Tezuka's manga, such as a flying, gender swapping humanoid. Here, Mitchi is replaced by "Tima", who is permanently female and cannot fly.

Missing ending picture

The Japanese release of the film shows a picture after the credits depicting a shop named "Kenichi & Tima Robot Company," with Tima visible in the window (or possibly driving the truck as the person looks similar to Tima). This implies that Kenichi succeeded in rebuilding Tima and they set up the shop together. This picture was included in the English Theatrical release of the film, but was not present on the DVD release for unknown reasons. It was, however, included on the Blu-ray release.


The Metropolis soundtrack consists mainly of New Orleans-style jazz music composed by Toshiyuki Honda and features Atsushi Kimura's cover of "St. James Infirmary Blues" and the ending theme "There'll Never Be Good-Bye" by Minako "Mooki" Obata. The soundtrack album is available on King Records.[5]

During the film's climactic scene, the song "I Can't Stop Loving You" performed by Ray Charles was used as most of the audio when the Ziggurat was destroyed, with sound effects only audible later on in the scene. The song is not included in the soundtrack album.


Metropolis received highly positive reviews, based on 60 reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, Metropolis received an overall 87% Certified Fresh approval. Rotten Tomatoes' Top Critics gives the movie an 82% approval rating.[6]

Trivia & Goofs

  • Supt. Notarlin's name is a joke based on the Japanese slang term "nôtarin" ("idiot," literally: "brain is insufficient").
  • Initially delayed, due to concern that its images of crumbling skyscrapers would shock people traumatized by 9/11, Sony decided to extend the film's theatrical run for a few more months.
  • When Tima remembers and first reveals her name to Kenichi, on the wall behind her is a map of Lake Ontario showing the coastline with Toronto and neighboring towns, but turned 90 degrees to the left.
  • The film was in production for 5 years.
  • When Lamp is shot, a candle temporarily appears over his head.
  • A total of 150,000 animation cells were used.
  • Rock's costume disappears in the Throne of Power scene.
  • At Robot Storage Area 17, the sign in the window changes from "Metropolis Police Department" to "Metlopolis Police Department."
  • During the revolution scene, a banner being held up reads "Revolution Has Been Done" instead of "Revolution Has Begun".
  • Original title was Astro Boy: Metropolis

See also


External links

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